Monday Motivation: “To-Do Lists”

It’s Monday! And I’ve recently re-discovered a bit of motivation after it temporarily escaped me for most of May and June, so I thought today was a good time to start a little Monday Motivation series. Partly because it’s absolutely pouring with rain today and the bad sort of “Monday feeling” is threatening to take over, but also I feel like I have a lot to say on the subject at the moment, so I might as well get it down onto paper (or laptop screen) before my ever-busy brain moves on to the next thing.

Last week I rediscovered my love of a good to-do list. My relationship with to-do lists over the years is best described as complicated. I’ve mentioned before that I like to feel in control of life and have a tendency to over-plan, and when you’re that way inclined a to-do list can quickly become another thing to ruin your day or to beat yourself up with. (‘This Is Us’ fans: if you’ve seen the trick-or-treating episode with Randall and his schedule – that’s basically me). You can take my word for it when I say that planning out every hour of your day via a list of 30-or-so items is not the way to go! That there are not 30 hours in one day should probably give that one away.

Anyway, for the above reasons I have steered away from the to-do list in recent months, worried that it would lead to me having a meltdown because I hadn’t achieved all my life goals in one day while sitting in my kitchen. But lately, while I hope that travelling to an office 5 days of the week is never a thing I do again, I’ve realised I’m really missing some of the structure and routine of my “old life”. Sometimes I think we view these things as being restrictive – preventing us from having the freedom to get a bit creative, or stressing us out as we constantly rush around to get from A to B on time. But now it feels like the only set routine in my life is walking from my bed to my kitchen each day to hold a 9am meeting, and for me that’s not enough.

It’s not even that I didn’t achieve anything in May or June – I definitely got plenty done, both work-wise and outside of work. It’s just that I didn’t feel any sense of focus or achievement because, as many of us have said recently, every day feels the same and they all just blur into one. So after a bit too much time spent staring at the wall / my phone over recent weeks, I have brought back the to-do list.

For an over-planner, the way to make to-do lists work, in my opinion, is to use them with a few little mental notes in mind:

  • Write your list for the day, then cross two items off – because you’ve probably written down more than you can realistically get done.
  • Know that you do not need to tick every item off the list. This one was a bit life-changing for me. It turns out the to-do list is there to focus your mind, so you don’t need to “think” about what to do next. It’s not there to punish you if a couple of those little tick-box squares are still empty at the end of the day.
  • Celebrate every single tick you add to that list. Maybe take a coffee break. Do a little dance around your kitchen. Do a victory lap of the garden, if you have one. Take every little task you complete as a sign that you’re totally winning at life, and then you’ll care less about the ones you don’t.
  • Always add a cake break to your to do list. Because a day without cake is a sad day indeed (ok, maybe this one is fairly specific to me).

Since the return of the to-do list to my life, some days just feel easier. I can wake up in the morning knowing there’s a nice little list to turn to when decisions feel hard or I just can’t seem to get my brain in gear. I’ve completed 4000 of the remaining 8000 words of coursework that I’d been procrastinating over for months. I’ve re-started regular running and ticked off all-but-one item on my half marathon training plan every week for 3 weeks. I’ve also written this blog post after slacking off a bit lately, so I can kick off my Monday feeling pretty damn pleased with myself!

Have a lovely Monday all, and don’t let the torrential rain get you down!


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